The chief financial officer for rogue University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro’s investment business has backed up his former boss’ claims that he threw parties on his yacht for UM football stars — plus sank $3.3 million of stolen investors’ money into a sports agency to recruit them for the NFL.
Roberto Torres, who was convicted along with Shapiro in his investment scam, gave a deposition last month that not only supports the former booster’s allegations to the NCAA. He also provides new financial details about Shapiro’s house-of-cards enterprise — including his questionable investment in Axcess Sports & Entertainment while he doled out money to players and the university.
“The boat was used for public relations and for entertainment of any of his friends or relatives or UM athletes, everyone,” Torres testified at a federal prison in New Jersey.
Asked by a Miami lawyer how he knew Shapiro used his 59-foot Rivera yacht to recruit Canes’ athletes, Torres said: “Because Shapiro told me, because I saw them on the boat, because I saw the pictures of all of them in the boat, because [Shapiro’s sports agency partner] Michael Huyghue mentioned that about the boat, because the captain spoke about the UM athletes. ... There were several.”
Torres’ testimony in the bankruptcy case of Nevin Shapiro’s defunct business, Capitol Investments USA, is likely to catch the attention of the NCAA, which plans to hold an infractions hearing next month alleging the university lacked institutional control over Shapiro and his dealings with UM athletes during the past decade.
Shapiro, 44, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for securities fraud and money laundering in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, claims he plied UM players with cash and other impermissible gifts on his yacht and at his Miami Beach mansion —assertions that his former CFO, Torres, backs up. But Torres doesn’t name any Canes athletes who received them.
Torres, 79, who is serving a four-year prison sentence for securities fraud, also testified that he witnessed and overheard conversations in which Shapiro talked about his “liabilities if the athletes received benefits from Mr. Shapiro because Mr. Shapiro was a booster there.”
Torres’ deposition, taken by Miami lawyer Gary Freedman in Shapiro’s bankruptcy case, is unique for two reasons: He’s the first former employee of Shapiro’s Miami Beach-based investment business, which purported to broker wholesale groceries, to testify about the disgraced UM booster’s claims. Also, his testimony can be used by the NCAA, which is not insignificant.
Earlier this year, the NCAA embarrassed itself when the collegiate organization acknowledged that its lead investigator in the UM case had collaborated with Shapiro’s criminal defense attorney, Maria Elena Perez, to use the bankruptcy proceeding to take the 2011 depositions of Shapiro’s former Axcess partner, Huyghue, and ex-Canes assistant equipment manager, Sean Allen. The investigator, Ameen Najjar, at the behest of Shapiro, asked Perez to issue bankruptcy subpoenas for the two witnesses because the NCAA did not have that power to compel their testimony.
To preserve its two-year-old UM probe, the NCAA threw out their depositions. In response, the university, which has already given up two bowl games and one post-season ACC title game, sought to get the case dropped. But the NCAA would not budge.